A weather smorgasbord is on the menu from Friday through Sunday. A widespread and significant winter storm will impact areas of the Plains, Midwest, Deep South and Great Lakes.
This storm system is pretty notable for this time of year because of the amount of moisture associated with it. We highlight this in our recent client video. Normally in January the atmosphere is at its coldest and therefore holds less moisture. It’s not common in the spring, summer and fall to see widespread areas of 2-5″ of rain, but it does happen every once in awhile. In January though? Very rare! That is the type of water we are expecting.
Heading down across the lower Mississippi Valley into Dixie Alley there is a pretty good chance at an organized severe weather event. The Storm Prediction Center already has an enhanced risk for Friday into Saturday.
Damaging winds and tornadoes are both possible with severe cells that develop. The Deep South will not be immune from heavy doses of rain either. The image below shows the high level of instability that will act as fuel for the storms.
Snow, Ice, Sleet Oh My!
The northern side of the system will be where the winter action makes headlines. A extreme temperature gradient with the difference between 60 degrees and 30 degrees only being less than 100 miles away from each other will be the scene for an active front. Very warm air will be pumped into parts of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana with cold air just to the north.
This will create a zone of sleet and freezing rain between the plain rain and the snow. This is caused by the warm air getting pulled aloft with cold air still near the surface. Snow aloft falls through the warm layer and melts. If there is enough below freezing air towards the ground then it refreezes into sleet. If not, then it hits the ground and turns to ice.
The amount of ice accumulation is not set in stone, just like the exact track and location of the system. The ice amounts will likely being mainly under 0.25″ with some isolated higher amounts. The models have a tendency of overdoing things.
On the northern side of the system will be a relatively narrow batch of snow. There will likely be a corridor of 6-12 inches. Isolated amounts of up to 18 inches are possible in the heart of the snow band. The snow will stretch from Oklahoma into Wisconsin and Michigan.
Many areas on the southern portion of the snow band will likely see all precipitation types at one point or another. This will cause a pretty big mess and certainly some moderate impacts.